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Historic England Research Records

Desborough Castle

Hob Uid: 248824
Location :
Buckinghamshire
Non Civil Parish
Grid Ref : SU8469093300
Summary : Norman ringwork, partly overlying a mound, possibly a barrow reused as a Saxon moot. Both lie within an enclosure, possibly a slight univallate hillfort of the Late Bronze Age or Early Iron Age. The defences of the ringwork enclose an area of roughly 0.5 hectares and consist of a single rampart and ditch with a break in the middle of the south east side. Finds indicate the existence of a substantial building within the enclosure during the medieval period. West of the ringwork lie the remains of a probably once circular mound, cut through by the ringwork ditch and thought to represent the remains of a bowl barrow.
More information : (SU 84719332) Desborough Castle (NR) (1)

Desborough Castle. Prehistoric, (ringwork) and remains of an outer work, probably a contour fort. The defences of the "ring-work" enclose an area of 1 acre and consist of a single rampart and ditch with a break in the middle of the SE side. Roofing tiles are abundant at the SE angle of the area. The rampart on the South is 16 ft high and 63 ft wide and the ditch is 12 ft deep and 57 ft wide. On the N & W faint traces remain of the "outer work" which appears to have been almost concentric and is probably of a period earlier than that of the ring work. (2)

Desborough Castle is situated on slightly sloping ground at the NE end of a prominent spur which projects into the River Wye valley. It is sub-rectangular on plan with its defences strongest on the uphill side and with a single causewayed entrance in the middle of the SE side. Although wooded it is in good condition and generally as described by RCHM except that it is Iron Age.

The outer work is under pasture and exists mainly as a strong scarp with traces of a rampart and outer ditch recognisable here and there along its length. It runs in a series of short straights in an arc round the N side of the mainwork but its southerly continuation is now lost on the W side in a housing estate and it terminates abruptly on the E side on a new road, Rutland Ave. It is probable that the old Booker Lane marked its course S from this point but much of this has now been developed also.

In addition to these two enclosures there is a third feature situated on the W side of the mainwork and apparently partly destroyed during the construction of the ditch. The remains comprise a segment of a probably circular mound some 24.0m in diameter and 1.0m in height, but although these dimensions, position and circumstances of mutilation strongly suggest a bowl barrow insufficient remains to be absolutely certain of its identification. The complex has been resurveyed at 1:1250 scale. (3)

A section was excavated in 1968 through an earthwork to the W of Desborough Castle, on behalf of Aylesbury Museum by C Saunders. The bank and ditch revealed would appear to date probably from the Iron Age. (4)

Ring Motte (NR). (5)

Desborough Castle for all its strength exhibits the classic characteristics of an Iron Age settlement. It is set into a slope, its entrance is at the change of slope and the rampart of 'hood' fades away on the downhill side until it is non-existent. So skilfully is this done that from the outside the inner slope of the ditch presents a remarkably uniform face. The earthwork thus created is a large platform protected on its upper side by a strong rampart and open on its downhill side where it overlooks and dominates to Wye Valley. Survey of 1.8.1962 confirmed. (6)

Part of the area enclosed by the outer earthwork, to the South East of the ringwork, was excavated in 1987 to assess archaeological potential in advance of an application for planning permission for housing development along Rutland Avenue (subsequently refused). Excavation included sectioning of the outer earthwork that borders Booker Lane. This suggested that the earthwork was a field lynchet that had developed along the line of an earlier bank, thought to be the remains of the later prehistoric enclosure. [Full excavation report]. Pottery scatters and the recorded presence of possibly medieval masonry found within the ringwork in the 18th century demonstrate its medieval origin, possibly during the period of the Anarchy (1st half of the 12th century). The placename 'Desborough' suggests that the site was significant in the Saxon period. One possibility is that the suggested round barrow served as a moot for Desborough Hundred, before being partly destroyed by the construction of the ringwork. (7)

SU 84689332; SU 84789324. Norman ringwork, partly overlying a mound, possibly a barrow reused as a Saxon moot. Both lie within an enclosure, possibly a slight univallate hillfort of the Late Bronze Age or Early Iron Age. The defences of the ringwork enclose an area of roughly 0.5 hectares and consist of a single rampart and ditch with a break in the middle of the south east side. Finds indicate the existence of a substantial building within the enclosure during the medieval period. West of the ringwork lie the remains of a probably once circular mound, cut through by the ringwork ditch and thought to represent the remains of a bowl barrow. Scheduling amended. (8)

Sources :
Source Number : 1
Source : Ordnance Survey Map (Scale / Date)
Source details : OS 6" 1926
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Source Number : 2
Source : An inventory of the historical monuments in Buckinghamshire, volume one [south]
Source details :
Page(s) : 318
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 1912
Source Number : 3
Source : Field Investigators Comments
Source details : F1 CFW 01-AUG-62
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Source Number : 4
Source : Buckinghamshire County Museum Report
Source details : Bucks Co Mus Rep 1968-70 5
Page(s) : 5
Figs. :
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Source Number : 5
Source : Ordnance Survey Map (Scale / Date)
Source details : OS 25" 1967
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Source Number : 6
Source : Field Investigators Comments
Source details : F2 CFW 28-OCT-74
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Source Number : 7
Source : Records of Buckinghamshire : journal of the Architectural and Archaeological Society for the County of Buckinghamshire
Source details : (M Collard)
Page(s) : 15-52
Figs. :
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Vol(s) : 18 - 1988
Source Number : 8
Source : Scheduled Monument Notification
Source details : EH Scheduling amendment, 06-DEC-2002
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Source Number :
Source : SU 89 SW 2 (Desborough Castle) (1962)
Source details :
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Monument Types:
Monument Period Name : Bronze Age
Display Date : Bronze Age
Monument End Date :
Monument Start Date :
Monument Type : Bowl Barrow
Evidence : Earthwork
Monument Period Name : Late Bronze Age
Display Date : Late Bronze Age
Monument End Date :
Monument Start Date :
Monument Type : Univallate Hillfort
Evidence : Earthwork
Monument Period Name : Early Iron Age
Display Date : Early Iron Age
Monument End Date :
Monument Start Date :
Monument Type : Univallate Hillfort
Evidence : Earthwork
Monument Period Name : Early Medieval
Display Date : Saxon
Monument End Date : 1066
Monument Start Date : 450
Monument Type : Moot
Evidence : Documentary Evidence
Monument Period Name : Medieval
Display Date : Medieval
Monument End Date : 1540
Monument Start Date : 1066
Monument Type : Ringwork, Building
Evidence : Earthwork, Sub Surface Deposit, Find

Components and Objects:
Period : Medieval
Component Monument Type : Ringwork, Building
Object Type : ROOF TILE
Object Material : Pottery

Related Records from other datasets:
External Cross Reference Source : Scheduled Monument Legacy (County No.)
External Cross Reference Number : BU 27
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : Scheduled Monument Legacy (National No.)
External Cross Reference Number : 19055
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : SMR Number (Buckinghamshire)
External Cross Reference Number : 18
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : National Monuments Record Number
External Cross Reference Number : SU 89 SW 2
External Cross Reference Notes :

Related Warden Records :
Related Activities :
Associated Activities : Primary, FIELD OBSERVATION ON SU 89 SW 2
Activity type : FIELD OBSERVATION (VISUAL ASSESSMENT)
Start Date : 1962-08-01
End Date : 1962-08-01
Associated Activities : Primary, DESBOROUGH CASTLE
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1968-01-01
End Date : 1968-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, FIELD OBSERVATION ON SU 89 SW 2
Activity type : FIELD OBSERVATION (VISUAL ASSESSMENT)
Start Date : 1974-10-28
End Date : 1974-10-28
Associated Activities : Primary, DESBOROUGH CASTLE
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1987-01-01
End Date : 1987-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, DESBOROUGH CASTLE PLAY AREA
Activity type : WATCHING BRIEF
Start Date : 2011-01-01
End Date : 2011-12-31